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Training package on EU Environmental Assessment Law – Focus on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directives

Module 4: The role of the national judge in the European Judicial System and the Procedures of the European Court of Justice (CJEU)

Application of European Union law by domestic judges

The effective application of European Union law cannot be ensured by the European Union and its courts alone. It depends strongly on domestic courts and individuals that initiate proceedings before these courts to enforce their rights under European Union law (see Case 26/62 Van Gend & Loos [1963] ECR 1).

European Union law must be applied by the domestic judge because it enjoys precedence over internal law (see Case 6/64 Costa v Enel [1964] ECR 585, Case C 409/06 Winner Wetten [2010] ECR I 8015, paragraph 53). Any conflicting provision of national law is inapplicable.

European Union law can be applied by the domestic judge because it has direct effect, if it is sufficiently clear and unconditional (see Case 26/62 Van Gend & Loos [1963] ECR 1). The provisions of the Treaties and of Regulations as such do not require any additional measures by member states to become effective. In contrast, Directives envisage transposition by member states within a certain time-limit. Nevertheless, once the time-limit for their implementation has expired Directives, too, can have direct effect (see Case 41/74 van Duyn [1974] ECR 1337, Case C 282/10 Dominguez [2012] ECR I 0000).

European Union law can also have indirect effects because all provisions of domestic law must be interpreted, so far as possible, in order to achieve the result sought by the relevant European Union law (see Joined Cases C 397/01 to C 403/01 Pfeiffer and Others [2004] ECR I 8835, Case C 282/10 Dominguez [2012] ECR I 0000).

Finally, European Union law requires effective judicial protection, which means that if European Union law creates rights, member states must provide access to courts to enforce these rights (see Case 222/86 Heylens and others [1987] ECR 4097, Case C 240/09 Lesoochranárske zoskupenie [2011] ECR I 1255, paragraphs 48 to 51).

For the presentation on "Public Participation under the EIA/SEA Directives" see the video podcast of Dr Matthias Keller:


Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)